Lot 11
  • 11

Edouard Manet

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 GBP
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  • Jeune femme dans les fleurs
  • signed by another hand Manet (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 65.4 by 81.3cm.
  • 25 3/4 by 32in.


Estate of the artist (sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 4th February 1884, no. 61)

Henri Guérard, Paris (purchased at the above sale)

Auguste Pellerin, Paris (acquired by 1902)

Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired by 1908)

Baron Mór Lipót Herzog, Budapest (acquired by 1913)

Paul Cassirer, Berlin

Dr Paul & Frieda Steiner, Berlin, Rotterdam & London (acquired by 1932)

Justin K. Thannhauser, New York (acquired from the above in 1949)

Reader's Digest, New York (acquired in 1949. Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, The Reader’s Digest Collection, 16th November 1998, lot 4)

Purchased at the above sale by the late owner


Berlin, Galerie Matthiesen, Edouard Manet, 1928, no. 42, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1876-77)

The Hague, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 1936-1947 (on loan)

New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Reader's Digest Collection, 1963, illustrated in the catalogue

Tokyo, Palaceside Building, Forty Paintings from The Reader's Digest Collection, 1966, no. 17, illustrated in the catalogue

New York; St. Paul, Minnesota; Detroit; Chicago; Stuttgart; London, Wildenstein & Co.; Milan & Paris, Selections from The Reader's Digest Collection, 1985-86, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1876)

Auckland, Auckland City Art Gallery, The Reader's Digest Collection: Manet to Picasso, 1989, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1876)


Théodore Duret, Histoire d'Edouard Manet et de son œuvre, Paris, 1902, no. 207, mentioned p. 244

Théodore Duret, Manet and the French Impressionists, London, 1912, no. 207, mentioned p. 237

Alphonse Tabarant, Manet: Histoire Catalographique, Paris, 1931, no. 251, mentioned pp. 303-4 & 582

Paul Jamot, Georges Wildenstein & Marie-Louise Bataille, Manet, Paris, 1932, vol. I, no. 319, catalogued p. 159; vol. 2, no. 319, illustrated p. 183

Alphonse Tabarant, Manet et ses œuvres, Paris, 1947, no. 259, illustrated p. 611

Marcello Venturi, L’opera pittorica di Edouard Manet, Milan, 1967, no. 219, illustrated p. 106

Merete Bodelsen, ‘Early Impressionist Sales, 1874-1894’, in The Burlington Magazine, June 1968, no. 61, listed pp. 341-342

Denis Rouart & Sandra Orienti, Tout l'œuvre peint d'Edouard Manet, Paris, 1970, no. 219, illustrated p. 106

Denis Rouart & Daniel Wildenstein, Edouard Manet: Catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1975, no. 317, illustrated p. 247


The canvas is lined. There is no evidence of retouching visible under ultra-violet light. This work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although less blue in tone and slightly brighter in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Jeune femme dans les fleurs, painted in 1879, represents the height of Manet’s interest in the Impressionist movement. During the 1870s and early 1880s Manet would set aside his more formal compositions and embrace his contemporaries’ passion for painting en plein air. The resulting paintings, including the present work, are masterpieces of deft, descriptive brushwork, executed in verdant colours which delightfully set off the tranquil subject matter (fig. 1). The central figure of the young girl is dressed in luminous white and surrounded by a dense green garden, marked by wild flowers wrought from taches of pink and purple paint. Manet has used contrasting hues and brushwork to conjure the warmth of the sun to the right of the composition and cool shadows beneath the foliage on the left.

The setting chosen by Manet for his Impressionist pictures was invariably that of a domestic garden. In 1870 Manet was persuaded by his sister-in-law, Berthe Morisot, to use her parents’ garden as the setting for a portrait of her neighbour Valentine Carré. This portrait never came off because of the prudish objections Mademoiselle Carré’s mother made to what she felt had the undertones of a scène d’amour. Nevertheless, Manet substituted the pretty Valentine with Morisot’s sister Edma. Contrary to the faintly lascivious connotations of a traditional fête champetre and his own Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, Manet’s later garden scenes - perhaps because of the spontaneity of the brushwork and informality of their compositions - are familial images of bourgeois cordiality. As Clare Willsdon explains: ‘A “family garden” is shown, in an image which fuses the bonds of blood with the intimacy of a private demesne, and the nurture of a child with the culture of nature. […] Manet’s painting, called In the Garden, in fact heralded a sequence of Impressionist ‘family gardens’ through the 1870s and 80s, as Monet settled with his young family in a house with a garden at Argenteuil’ (C.A.P. Willsdon, In the Gardens of Impressionism, London, 2004, pp. 127-128). In 1874 Manet chose to depict the Monet family in their garden at Argenteuil (fig. 2), which lies between the more formal Dans le jardin of 1870 and the casual nature of the present work. In temperament Jeune femme dans les fleurs is closely allied to a work now in The Barnes Foundation called Le Ligne (fig. 3), a painting of 1875 that was refused by the jury for the Salon of 1876. Both works share the meditative calm of an afternoon in the sun and an atmosphere that is positively charged by the swaying grasses and flower heads bathed in dappling sunlight.

Although Manet never exhibited his work at any of the eight Impressionist group shows held between 1874 and 1886, he had long been recognized as the de facto leader of the avant-garde. In 1876 the poet and essayist Stéphane Mallarmé published ‘The Impressionists and Edouard Manet’, an essay that is an appreciation, explanation and defence of his friend's work, as well as a general discussion of the Impressionist movement. In his essay Mallarmé identified the garden scene La Ligne and its other Impressionist counterparts as the culmination of the artist’s drive towards creating a timeless evocation of fleeting sensations, and described how: ‘Everywhere the luminous and transparent atmosphere struggles with the figures, the dresses, and the foliage, and seems to take to itself some of this substance and solidity; whilst their contours, consumed by the hidden sun and wasted by space, tremble, melt, and evaporate into the surrounding atmosphere, which plunders reality from the figures, yet seems to do so in order to preserve their truthful aspect’ (S. Mallarmé in Ruth Berson, The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, San Francisco, 1996, vol. I, p. 30). Indeed, Mallarmé's description is a nearly perfect definition for those consummate Impressionist paintings of the 1870s that were painted en plein air and sur le motif. Such pictures focus on the pure pleasure of colour and light, and the joy and richness of visual experiences in the open air. These paintings were often attacked by conservative, academically minded critics as unfinished and meretricious, but Jeune femme dans les fleurs is ample evidence that these experimental and daring works offered new and special insights into the role and purposes of modern painting. Moreover, this work demonstrates unequivocally that despite Manet's reluctance to ally himself publicly with the emerging avant-garde movement, he was himself a master of the loose, open brushwork and effects of colour and light that are the hallmarks of Impressionism.

Jeune femme dans les fleurs is also noteworthy as an image that has strong affinities with certain works by Monet and Renoir. During the 1860s and 1870s Monet had painted and exhibited numerous compositions depicting women in gardens and fields of flowers. Many emphasize the effects of colour and light that characterize the present work. For example, in Monet's Gladioli (fig. 4), painted around 1876, one finds a similar interest in the loose, open, nearly abstract brushwork and exaggerated effects of colour and light that foreshadow stylistic interests and currents that would soon emerge in the art of the twentieth century.

Although Rouart and Wildenstein (op. cit., 1975, vol. I, no. 317) and others assign 1879 as the date of Jeune femme dans les fleurs, Alphonse Tabarant (op. cit., 1931, pp. 303-304) indicates it was painted in 1876 in the garden of the collector and department store magnate Ernest Hoschedé's house in Montgeron. In addition, an annotation on the mount of the print of the Tabarant photograph in the Morgan Library ascribes the painting to 1876, but the source of the information is not known. However, comparison with the brushwork of La Journal Illustré, 1879, in The Art Institute of Chicago, suggests that 1879 is also a viable possibility. Jeune femme dans les fleurs was included in an auction of property from Manet's estate that was held at the Hôtel Drouot, Paris, in 1884. That same year it was photographed, but the signature that the painting now bears is not visible in the photograph. In 1949 the work was bought by DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace for the Reader’s Digest collection, forming part of one of the first and most significant corporate collections of art in America.